China and India’s Growth

The McKinsey Quarterly discusses the different routes the two countries are taking towards growth:

First it was China. The rest of the world looked on in disbelief, then awe, as the Chinese economy began to take off in the 1980s at what seemed like lightning speed and the country positioned itself as a global economic power. GDP growth, driven largely by manufacturing, rose to 9 percent in 2003 after reaching 8 percent in 2002. China used its vast reservoirs of domestic savings to build an impressive infrastructure and sucked in huge amounts of foreign money to build factories and to acquire the expertise it needed. In 2003 it received $53 billion in foreign direct investment, or 8.2 percent1 of the world’s totalmore than any other country.

India began its economic transformation almost a decade after China did but has recently grabbed just as much attention, prompted largely by the number of jobs transferred to it from the West. At the same time, the country is rapidly creating world-class businesses in knowledge-based industries such as software, IT services, and pharmaceuticals. These companies, which emerged with little government assistance, have helped propel the economy: GDP growth stood at 8.3 percent in 2003, up from 4.3 percent in 2002. But India’s level of foreign direct investment$4.7 billion in 2003, up from $3 billion in 2002is a fraction of China’s.

Both countries still have serious problems: India has poor roads and insufficient water and electricity supplies, all of which could thwart its development; China has massive bad bank loans that will have to be accounted for. The contrasting ways in which China and India are developing, and the particular difficulties each still faces, prompt debate about whether one country has a better approach to economic development and will eventually emerge as the stronger.

Udell on Meta-Mail

Jon Udell writes:

We spend a lot of time, in email, enacting protocols that could be (to some degree) formalized. There’s a delicate balance to be struck here, of course. Most business processes mediated by email have both formal aspects (you ask me to perform a task by a certain date) and informal aspects (we negotiate, and realize something else we hadn’t thought of should take precedence). The conversational nature of email is its irreplaceable strength. That’s why we keep on re-inventing email within special-purpose applications. And it’s why I’ve long argued that our general-purpose email software has to be more programmable, and has to have robust support for extensible metadata. Here’s the conclusion I came to back in 1998: “Messaging is at the center of all groupware activities. We need to be able to deeply customize our messaging environments. There are two ways this can happen: enrich the browser’s user interface and local data store, or componentize the messaging client.

Six years later, both strategies are in play. If the Alchemy idea finds its way into Gmail as I suspect it will, we’ll finally get to see what webmail might really be capable of. And if Chandler pans out, we’ll similarly get to see what a full-strength messaging client built for scripted extensibility can do. The question is what we make of these capabilities.

Of course if email (the protocol) were sufficiently enriched with task-related metadata, and if email (the application) could be customized to handle the prioritization and visualization that Phil envisions, the distinction between “in email” and “outside email” might cease to matter.

What Phil Windley envisions: “I think the answer to this problem lies in creating a task dashboard and having the various applications, including email, post control messages to the dashboard so that I have a single place to manage the various messages that are coming to me, albeit outside email. I’m envisioning something more flexible that a simple dashboard. I want a rule engine, easy graphics, templates, and so on so that I can customize it to the way I want to work. There’s lots to think about here.”

Fantasy Sports

WSJ writes about the growth as AOL and Electronic Arts join the action:

The fantasy-sports league phenomenon lies at the crossroads of sports, technology and media.

Fantasy leagues have been around for decades, but they were largely a cottage industry in the early years because compiling the statistics required poring over box scores of games for hours each week. Then, the Internet made it easy for online services to keep the statistics centrally and update scores automatically. A companion corps of commentators and data providers has arisen to peddle information and analysis.

Now, there are fantasy leagues for stock-car racing, cricket, pro cycling, and even bass fishing. But football, the most popular U.S. spectator sport, boasts the biggest fantasy following, in part because its relatively short season and one-game-per-week schedule make it easier for players to follow. Over 90% of all fantasy sports players participate in football, compared to just over 60% for baseball, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Nextaris: Web Research Dashboard

SearchEngineWatch writes:

Nextaris pulls together all of the tools you need to find, save, and share information with others in a single online location.

Nextaris, from the same folks that brought you SurfWax, is an initial effort to integrate the various tools we all use in online research. Like other online web research managers, lets you create folders to save cached copies of web pages, and search the content you’ve saved. There are also tools that allow you to easily publish the content you’ve found, to a web site or a blog.

What sets Nextaris apart are the additional tools it provides, all accessible via tabs. The search tab gives you access to a few dozen search engines. Unlike SurfWax, which is a meta search engine, you select search sources with radio buttons. Another tab lets you create news trackers which automatically find news and recent information from over 4,000 sources. A separate, personal news page is created and updated twice daily for each NewsTracker.

To me, the most interesting feature Nextaris offers is the ability to share folders with others. This is a true peer-to-peer system, allowing you to collaborate in virtually real-time with others. Beyond sharing folders of saved research with others, Nextaris also has a messaging system that lets you communicate with collaborators, as well.

I can see this being particularly useful for team members that need to work the web together. Business researchers should find Nextaris helpful for doing competitive analysis work, for example. Librarians building web directories will be able to more easily share and maintain their portals with these tools.

Micropayments writes that digital content is sparking growth in the use of micropayments:

Micropayments are typified by the 99 cents that iTunes charges to download a song or the $2.99 users might see on their Cingular Wireless phone bills after buying a custom ring tone.

According to recent research published by TowerGroup, the total market for Internet and wireless micropayments, led by demand for digital content, will increase by 23 percent annually over the next five years to reach $11.5 billion by 2009. TowerGroup, based in Needham, Mass., charted the micropayments market at just over $2 billion in 2003.

Bruce Cundiff, an analyst with Jupiter Research, thinks the e-commerce market is in its third or fourth wave of development of micropayment technologies. The success of iTunes, coupled with continued growth of broadband, will make digital content the catalyst that pushes the sector forward rapidly, Cundiff said.

“What it comes down to is that there simply must be a viable transaction model for smaller-cost products to make a dollar off e-commerce sales, but I think with what we’ve seen already in digital media, it’s clear that people are figuring out how to make it work,” Cundiff said.

Among the vendors vying for a place on the micropayments landscape with alternative payment technologies are firms including BitPass and Peppercoin, which are taking markedly different approaches to the sector. Peppercoin serves as a micropayment transaction aggregator that helps vendors save money on credit card charges, while BitPass markets stored-credit accounts and transaction processing to help facilitate both buyers and sellers.

BitPass’ system works much like the prepaid calling cards you can buy at many convenience stores. Customers put money into debit accounts and can use the funds at any site affiliated with the company. Vendors can begin accepting the BitPass cards simply by downloading a free software client provided by the company.

Danger CEO Interview

Excerpts from an interview in The Engadget with Hank Nothhaft, CEO of Danger, which makes devices like the Sidekick II:

I think the compelling aspect of [Sidekick II] is the fact that weve been able to blend these applications together on a single device messaging, email, web browsing, a phone service with what I would call doing justice to each application. We make it available to the user through a very effortless, simple interface. Id compare us to Apples iPod or to the TiVo. Thats our major achievement, weve simplified the complexities of all these phenomenal services so mere mortals can enjoy the fruits of this device.

Eighty percent of the people do use the device as their primary phone, so thats very popular. But the thing thats really amazing is the messaging activity that takes place. I call them messaging engines. The people who are using IM on these devices are sending and receiving 110 instant messages a day. Theyre also doing 25-30 emails a day, and theyre accessing 25 web pages a day. We also support SMS on this, and have a range of around 4 SMS messages a day.

The strategy is and was that our expertise is in writing data applications, Java-based operating systems, and enabling things like online commerce. To prove that our concept was valid and exciting, we had to build a device and then hopefully attract consumer electronics companies to work with us.

[In the future], were talking about displacing camera, audio players, maybe video players. Certainly 10 years out the industry will have a different look to it. Mobile devices will become a PC displacement product. I dont think youll see conventional laptops as we know them today that functionality will be subsumed into some device.

Personally, Im very much an online person, but Ive gotten to the point where the only reason Id take my laptop on a business trip is to do a Powerpoint presentation. Devices like ours and others are subsuming some of the functions of PCs.

TECH TALK: An Entrepreneur’s Growth Challenge: People

With the vision in place, the challenge before me is to now build the various teams that will need to build and assemble the various jigsaw pieces together. My personal management experience in this area has been quite limited. In IndiaWorld, I had about 20 people to manage and two parts to the business that we were doing portals, and website development. The current Netcore staff strength is much more than that already, and growing. I have a senior management team looking at the different areas. But for most of us, it is our first experience at managing and growing. That makes things all the more challenging.

I have often wondered that given my inherent experience limitations, I should perhaps get in someone to head operations. It is a question I think about every few months. I know I have to do it at some point of time the question is when. My most recent thinking is that I will not look at it right now I have to lead from the front. I have a mental map of what needs to get done which I have shared with and brainstormed with the core team. This map continues to evolve and will do for some time. I have to continue to drive the operations for the foreseeable future.

It is a challenge I am not someone who particularly enjoys the operational part of a business. But I am now growing to like it. The multiple mental models that have formed over the past few years are now coming in handy as we shift gear from thought to action.

A month or so ago, we also recruited an HR manager. We realised that we needed to do a fair amount of recruiting and without an experienced person to lead that process, we would have to go through a lot of trial-and-error to make the right decisions. We also need to now look beyond fresh talent just out of engineering colleges to more experienced talent. This is going to be the priority going ahead.

The next set of recruitments will be key for us the quality of our people will define whether we have a chance at success or we end up as the living dead. As we bring in people into key positions, the one attribute I look for is passion. People have to be excited about what they are doing. There are going to be many ups and downs as we go through the build-out of the Emergic components what Tracy Kidder has called mountains beyond mountains. Solve one problem and there is another waiting to be tackled. We need people who do not get flustered by not having a clear defined roadmap ready for them, and are instead willing to participate enthusiastically in detailing out the terrain that needs to be conquered.

A related challenge will be managing this growth in people. I expect us to grow from 50 to about 75-80 by the end of the year. This will also necessarily introduce some hierarchy and some distance. I have to make sure that we are able to make sure that everyone understands our mission and is motivated from inside, and not just going through the motions of a job that delivers a sustainable livelihood.

Tomorrow: Partnerships